Batman fighting – and beating up – the Gotham police is well-known to long-time comic book fans and even the general public via the movies and other media. But starting in Batman issue #44, the Dark Knight has to unclench his fists as he reflects how both the superhero and philanthropist Wayne personas may have added the all-too real-world problems of racism, police brutality, poverty and societal clash to the fictional city.
Titled, A Simple Case, Batman is confronted with what to do about Gotham police officer Ned Howler shooting teenager Peter Duggio. The latter had just emerged from a gang fight in his neighborhood when confronted by Howler, who tells him to stand down. Before Duggio can respond, the police officer’s fatally shoots him.
Duggio is black, Howler is white, and the parallels to the Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman case from 2012 can be easily seen in the issue with the haunting image of a hoodie-clad Duggio bleeding from the shot. Batman later learns the gang conflict started when news broke that Bruce Wayne planned to redevelop the neighborhood. Notes writer Scott Snyder:
“This issue is meant to be a thesis about what our Batman is. We’ve tried to be pretty relentlessly on-point about him being a symbol of inspiration in the face of tremendous fear, as opposed to a symbol of punishment, or a symbol of revenge, taking the city away from criminals. Here is where he begins to learn [the limits of] the methods that he thought would work: finding a criminal, making an example of the criminal, throwing the criminal in jail … Instead, what he has to learn is that the problems that he’s facing in today’s city are much more humbling, are much more complicated.”
To say that Batman #44 is going to be controversial is putting it mildly. But this won’t be the first time the comics have waded into touchy subjects. Some were based on real-world issues; many were not. A famed one was the death of the Jason Todd as the second Robin in the Batman: Death in the Family story arc. While superheroes meeting their end is not new, Todd’s demise sent shockwaves throughout comic book fandom since it was voted by the readers at the time. Todd has since returned to life as the anti-hero Red Hood and even starred in his own series, Red Hood and the Outlaws.
One subject you’ll probably never see resurrected is Batman’s use of a gun. Yes, he used one on Darkseid during the Final Crisis, but that was to deliver a bullet full of radion, one of the few substances that could affect the New God. But in what is now known as the Golden Age of Comics, Batman regularly used firearms, either of his own design or taken from criminals. His persona back then was much closer to the violent anti-hero Punisher from Marvel than the gun-phobic vigilante today.
What do you think of the upcoming A Simple Case story? Do you think it’ll have fans chatting away at the virtual cooler like Death in the Family did in the past? Or are you just cool to it? Let us know in the comments below.
For more Batman news be sure to check out the latest from Gotham As The Villains Rise, or take a look at the newest animated feature from DC with Batman: Bad Blood, and of course you might as well watch the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer again for the hundredth time.
Images: DC Comics